I've read some books.
James Reese, The Book of Shadows: I don't know why I kept reading this horrendously bad book. The orphan Herculine – and if you've read enough Foucault, (a) I'm sorry and (b) this will be a big ol' clue to one of the book's Mysteries – gets labeled a witch as the result of going along with the schemes of a fellow student at her convent school. I don't know how the author made 3 sex scenes in 600 pages gratuitous, but he did, along with pointlessly gory violence – and my standards for relevance and pointiness are pretty low. Mostly the writing is too drearily bad for anything to stand out, other than ellipsis abuse, bare feet that grow slippers and confusion over disinterested/uninterested. Reese is too in love with description to think, as in this example: "the air was thick with rose perfume and the scent of the chocolate mulch mounded loose around the bases of the bushes." Lucky bushes. "Chocolate" can describe color, but not in a sentence involving smells. Oddly, I was most annoyed by this pair of winners, within a few sentences of one another: "a three-legged filigreed table of mahogany and inlaid marble, with a smooth and golden-red veneer of tortoiseshell and brass," and "Sunlight ... lit the uncarved wood of the bed's outer walls, showed its grain and its age – oak, it seemed, inlaid with ebony; and veneered with tulipwood, perhaps kingwood." A "veneer" is a thin piece of wood or other material over another kind of wood, and the whole point of a well-made veneer is to prevent the casual observer from seeing the mahogany and oak underneath. Verdict: Diarrhea of the thesaurus.
Greg Rucka, Critical Space: This is a thriller about a bodyguard who gets hired by a hitwoman to protect her. It moves pretty fast, and is better than average beach reading, but the suspension of disbelief got harder and harder for me as incredible events piled up on one another. At least the plot wasn't marred by the classic "This is something I've got to do for myself," putting the hero hand-to-hand with his equally idiotic adversary.
Amy Sedaris & David Sedaris, The Book of Liz: This odd little play is about a Pennsylvania Dutch-like community that has the secret of making wonderful cheese balls. Elizabeth, who makes the cheese balls, suffers indignities under the patriarchal rule of Reverend Tollhouse until he orders her to tell the secret to a new man who's going to take over production, at which point she rebels and flees, meeting a woman advertising on the roadside in a giant hot-dog suit and later becoming a waitress in a faux-old fashioned restaurant in which her modest dress looks like the employees' costumes. An enjoyable little satirical trifle, but stylized enough that I know that watching it instead of reading it would have driven me nuts.
Michael Marshall Smith, Spares: Special Edition: I adore Smith, enough to spend $45 for this special edition, which has an essay by Smith, an intro by Neil Gaiman, three extra stories and one missing chapter. I doubt you want to spend the money (though they are signed by Smith & Gaiman), but fortunately Smith's works are widely available as ordinary paperbacks. The setup is something that would take another writer a novel to get through: Jack Randall escapes from a Farm, where clones are stored until their originals have a trauma that requires a new body part, with a bunch of the clones. The clones are supposed to be kept in blue-lit tunnels without any stimulation, so they're just body parts without functioning brains, but Jack had taken a couple out to teach, and the day they came to take Jenny to her death he rebelled. As the book begins, he's entering the MegaMall of New Richmond, looking for money so he can take the escapees somewhere. He finds old trouble instead. Parts of the book are quite surreal, and the story swoops and dives in ways you'll either think are genius or annoyingly nuts. Although I like One of Us and its animate alarm clock better, I'm voting for genius.
Kage Baker, Black Projects, White Knights: Suppose that there were a corporation with the secret of time travel, which used that secret to appropriate for itself numerous discoveries, artifacts, rare plants, and other objects of value that have come and gone over the centuries. Suppose that to further this goal, it created a bunch of indestructible cyborgs out of humans (and others) rescued at various points across the millenia. That's the premise of Baker's Company novels and short stories, fourteen of which are collected here. Though my copy was physically defective – blank pages that ought to have had text – I enjoyed the stories well enough. The Alex Checkerfield stories feature a supersmart kid in a century that has banned everything that makes life interesting, like fat, sugar, and insensitivity. They seem promising but threaten to develop the problem of creating an interesting plot with an invulnerable hero. This is definitely not the place to start reading about the Company; that would be The Garden of Iden, the first book in the series, which introduces the unhappy Mendoza, the cyborg who plays a big role in many of the books and stories. Mendoza is an interesting heroine, despite her physical invulnerability, because she has to struggle with staying closeted as she travels to new time periods, and because her heart is far from invulnerable, as much as she wishes it were.
Lois McMaster Bujold, Dreamweaver's Dilemma: This book collects six of Bujold's short stories, only one of them about Vorkosigans ("The Mountains of Mourning," which any Miles fan already has), several essays, and a Vorkosigan genealogy and pronunciation guide. As you can tell from the description, it's a slapdash affair – all the random Bujold stuff they could find for the collection – and probably of limited interest, since the early stories lack Bujold's later panache. There's a Sherlock Holmes story, but perhaps the most interesting thing comes in the introduction, which reveals that Shards of Honor started out as a story about a Klingon officer and a red-headed Federation scientist stranded on an unsettled planet together. Ah, fandom.
Alan Moore et al., Top Ten, Book 2: What if everyone in town had superpowers? There'd still be cops, and that's what Top Ten is about, the hard-working men, women, and, um, other things that keep the peace and solve the crimes in a very strange world. While no Watchmen, Top Ten is a fun twist on the superhero comic; this book involves high-level malfeasance, the death of one of the main characters, further romantic difficulties for others, and a cop who thinks he's going to another dimension for a routine report but ends up in an Arena-style battle of creatures from many dimensions. And an ad for Vacation on Infinite Earths, as a bonus.
Brian Michael Bendis et al., Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl?: Another comic focusing on cops in a world where superheroes exist, but here the cops and most of the populace are just normal folks. Detective Christian Walker and his new partner have to investigate a shocking murder, but maybe Walker's not as detached as he seems at first. There are some neat twists, and the frustrations of an unproductive investigation are amusingly portrayed, but I don't really care what happens to Walker next the way I care about Moore's Kemlo, the real K9 officer, or Joe Pi, trying to replace a beloved officer in a world already suspicious of his robot nature.